Double, Double, Toil and Trouble…

The nights are getting darker, there is an escapable chill in the air and the streets are slowly becoming festooned in a trail of leaves. Factor in those comforting mugs of hot cocoa, and you definitely know that Autumn is finally here. This officially means that if you are brave enough to pay the shops a visit, you will now be aware that the jolly man in red and his reindeer friends are on the way. However, while we are undoubtedly excited for all the indulgent food, glittering sparkles and mysterious gifts that Christmas brings, we want to focus on some events that are arriving a little sooner. This is because while nothing is quite comparable to the magic and wonder of Christmas, we like to think that the fiendish fun of Halloween and the spectacular night-time displays of Bonfire Night hold their own in the excitement stakes. When else can you dress up as someone you are not, pig out on all kinds of indulgent candy and see the skies brought to life in an illuminating display of rainbow colours? Therefore, this week we thought we would look at all the family-fun you can experience with us this Autumn and when you consider our super city central locations, you know you are never too far away from all the action.

Aberdeen

haunted-crathes

Image: http://www.picturebritain.com/2011/05/crathes-castle-banchory.html

Crathes Castle

Being located in ‘Castle County’ with more castles per acre than anywhere else in the UK, it is safe to say that we are all relatively castle crazy in our Aberdeen HQ. However, you can take this craziness and lunacy to a ghoulish level when you attend the special Halloween ghost tour of Crathes Castle from 28th – 31st October. With dark passageways and walls that hold stories spanning all kinds of decades, where else could be more spookily fitting to spend the holiday? No matter what corner you turn, expect the unexpected and with a ‘warm’ welcome from the castle’s most renowned inhabitant who haunts the halls, the Green lady, you know you are in for a few chills down the spine.

Website: http://www.nts.org.uk/Events/Theme/Halloween-fun/

Haddo House

Halloween is all about mystery and tricks, but that does not mean it always has to be gruesome. Take for instance Halloween Magic at Haddo House where you can be captivated by mesmerising illuminations that bring both ethereal creatures like fairies, and those which are a little more sinister, to life. With stunning woodland grounds which deserve to be admired both during the day and in the mysterious night, it is the perfect setting for a night rich in fairy tales and magic.

Website: http://www.nts.org.uk/Property/Haddo-House/Events/

Codona’s

Complete with bowling, dodgems and an arcade where one can spend many an hour (and your loose change!), Codona’s amusement park is the perfect family friendly trip at it is. However, if you factor in it being bedecked in all kinds of ghostly gruesome decorations and offering traditional party games, then you know there is no where you can get more in the Halloween spirit of things. The only thing not so scary is the special reduced prices Codona’s offering throughout the month of October meaning you can be scared, but for less!

Website: http://codonas.com/sunset-boulevard/smugglers-cove/smugglers-cove-halloween-spook-tacular

Hidden Aberdeen

If there is anything synonymous with Halloween, it is creepy and spine-tingling tours of deserted streets haunted by restless ghosts who want to lure you into their dark and twisted stories. Therefore, if you are the kind of adrenaline junkie who lives for these kinds of scares, Hidden Aberdeen undoubtedly offers a tour which will hit all the spots. With tours focusing on all kinds of morbidly fascinating stories covering murder, bodysnatchers and ghosts, there is a darker history to the buzzing streets of Scotland’s Silver City which deserve to be told and when better to hear them than on this ghostly night?

Website: http://www.hiddenaberdeen.co.uk/

Birmingham

haloween02-535-196

Image: https://www.cadburyworld.co.uk/whats-on/autumn

Birmingham is the ultimate destination for family friendly fun because due to its convenient location, it is only a short distance away from major UK attractions including Drayton Manor, Warwick Castle, West Midland Safari Park and Cadbury’s World. Fortunately, if these attractions were not exciting enough as it was, they are taking it to a whole new level this Autumn as they fully embody and embrace the ghostly season. Therefore, from horror mazes to all kinds of wicked tricks and treats, there are all kinds of new mischievous fun to be had from the seasonal horror spectaculars on offer.

The National Sea Life Centre

All kinds of mystery and wonder lurk in the dark crevices of the ocean floor and the National Sea Life Centre is certainly playing on this with a Spooky Seas exhibit on display from the 22nd October to the 31st October. From jellyfish to piranhas, not all ghostly forms are to be discovered on dry land!

Website: https://www2.visitsealife.com/birmingham/discover/events/

Black Country Living Museum

One of Birmingham’s most renowned and award-winning museums, there could not be a better setting for some Halloween fun quite like the cobbled streets of the Black Country Living Museum which tells the story of the world’s first industrial landscape. Factor in live street entertainment including magicians and fire-jugglers; actual trick or treating and interaction with all kinds of creepy, crazy characters, it is a sure fire guarantee for a wicked night out! Available between 28th and 31st October.

Website: http://www.bclm.co.uk/events/halloween-nights–sold-out/14.htm

Pumpkin Flotilla at Sarehole Mill

Ghosts, witches, vampires and candy; all are symbols synonymous with the seasonal haunted spirit. However, from infamous Pumpkin Spices Lattes to Pumpkin Pie, who can forget the other main accessory of the season – pumpkins! Therefore, for a more relaxed spooky evening, how about partaking in Birmingham’s only pumpkin flotilla at Sarehole Mill? Occurring between October 28th and October 30th, you can spend the mysterious period of twilight, not gawping at vampires, but being hypnotised by the wondrous sight of gently glowing carved pumpkins floating away down the Mill pond. The complimentary hot chocolate also adds a little something special to the proceedings!

 Website: http://www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/sarehole/whats-on/pumpkin-flotilla

 

Glasgow

riverside-drive-in-movie

Image: https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/halloween-in-glasgow

Glasgow Horror Festival

Sometimes Halloween is not all about going out, it is also about staying in, turning off the lights, snuggling up in a duvet and then subjecting yourself to a marathon of the scariest and most gruesome movies which guarantee you a night with the lights switched on. Well, with the inaugural Glasgow Horror Festival on 29th October 2016, you can be terrified out of your wits with company as the festival will be 12 hours full of indie movies, live music, industry Q and As and of course some crazy dressing up! If you are really a horror movie buff, make sure not to miss the movie drive-in at the Riverside Museum on the 30th October which is showing classics including Hocus Pocus.

Website: http://www.princeandprincessofwaleshospice.org.uk/event-article/social-events/drive-in-movie

Tennant’s Halloween Brewery Tour

Whether it is Halloween or not, the Tennant’s Brewery tour is always worth a visit just because you cannot say you have fully experienced Scotland until you have learnt the story of one of Scotland’s national drinks. However, the Halloween tours on the 28th/29th October just elevate the invigorating stories to be told because mysterious tales of the brewery are interwoven alongside the provision of Halloween games and nibbles.

Glasgow Science Centre – Halloween Fright Night

While you may be dying to enjoy a spooky pint of Tennants, sometimes with your young ones in tow this may not be a possibility. However, Glasgow is able to provide some family friendly thrills and nowhere is this more clearly evident than at the Glasgow Science Centre’s Halloween Fright Night on 28th October. It is literally one of Scotland’s biggest family friendly Halloween extravaganzas and with a costume catwalk, the chance to concoct your own monster potion, a gruesome live autopsy and the telling of tales of mystery in the planetarium, it is no surprise why all the young ghosts and ghouls congregate here!

Website: http://www.glasgowsciencecentre.org/special-events/frightnight.html

Edinburgh

condemned-at-the-real-mary-kings-close-2

Website: https://www.scotsmagazine.com/articles/break-free-from-the-edinburgh-fringe/

Ghost Tours

Just from looking at Edinburgh and its cobbled old streets, you can see that it is a city rooted in a rich history and of course where there is history; there are often dark, sinister stories of murder, mystery, treason and blood. Therefore, regardless of whether you visit Edinburgh at Halloween or not, there is always ample opportunity to have the goose bumps rise on your arms and the chill go down your spine as many attractions including the Edinburgh Dungeons, The Ghost Bus Tour, Mary’s Kings Close and Edinburgh’s renowned ghost walks/murder tours are open for haunting all year round. From bodysnatchers to vampires to witch trials, you can learn all about it whatever month you visit, but of course there could not be a more chillingly fitting time than the night of scares and ghouls itself. Mercat Tours in particular are offering dedicated Halloween tours.

Website: https://www.mercattours.com/

 Condemned, Real Mary’s King Close

Mary’s King Close is rumoured to be one of Scotland’s most haunted grounds as it is, therefore where better to spend Halloween? This is particularly true when you consider how the chilling stories of the underground streets are taken to a whole new terrifying level with the seasonal late night experience of “Condemned”. Witches are an integral part of Halloween due to their dark magic and plotting, and therefore this is why “Condemned” is centred on telling the story of Edinburgh’s witchcraft past.

Website: http://www.realmarykingsclose.com/events/16-02-17/condemned-287898829.aspx

The Real Jekyll and Hyde at Edinburgh Dungeons

While some of Edinburgh’s renowned ghost and murder tours may be a little too much for the young ones, the Edinburgh Dungeons are able to make the dark, gruesome past a little more accessible through invoking some comical relief and interactive guest participation. With the seasonal addition of ‘The Real Jekyll and Hyde’ to generate some extra thrills, there really cannot be a better time to interact with some of the shadiest characters of Edinburgh’s past.

Website: https://www.thedungeons.com/edinburgh/en/explore-the-dungeon/jekyll-and-hyde.aspx

Halloween Trail

Between the Botanic Light event and this creepy Halloween trail occurring between the 15th and 31st of October, there could not be a better time to experience the wonder, beauty and now mystery of the Royal Botanic Gardens. A light-hearted activity perfect for all the family, the trail centres on helping a witch’s cat, Caley, to amass all the necessary plant ingredients to concoct the healing potion for the Garden’s witch.

Website: http://www.rbge.org.uk/whats-on/family-events

Samhuinn Fire Festival 2016

There is no experience quite as immersive as the Samhuinn Fire Festival, a non-ticketed event occurring on 31st October which will send your senses into overdrive due to the dramatic fire, pumping music and captivating street performances that occur. Halloween is all about tradition and this event is no different because it is a Celtic festival all about reliving the pagan tradition of Samhuinn, the celebration that occurred when harvest ended and winter was coming. Beginning on the Royal Mile, this is an amazing spectacle and experience not to be missed!

 Website: https://beltane.org/about-samhuinn/

 

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November…

56608545_70169-1-fireworks 

Website: http://www.walkersandford.co.uk/festive-firework-displays-guy-fawkes-nights-in-glasgow-november-2012/

However, the night-time spectaculars go beyond the 31st of October, so make sure you stick around! This is because of course who can forget the 5th of November where the skies come to life in a blaze of colour and wonder to celebrate Bonfire night. Fortunately, none of our respective locations are shy when it comes to getting in the seasonal spirit of sparklers and Catherine wheels so make sure to discover where some of the headlining public events are occurring for the best view in the house. From fairgrounds to live music, this is a celebration truly not to be missed!

Birmingham

Edgbaston Stadium Fireworks Spectacular (tickets required)

                        Solihull Round Table Fireworks Display

Glasgow   

Glasgow Green Fireworks (free)

Edinburgh

Fireworks at Meadowbank! (tickets required)

Aberdeen

Aberdeen Beach (free)

See the sights, smell the roses… and catch the Pokémon?

pokemon_go

Image: http://www.saferinternet.org.uk/news/pokemon-go-gaming-gone-mobile

Trends, fashions and fads come and go, and it is clear which one is here to stay for summer 2016 – Pokémon Go. Yes, unless you have somehow managed to miss the numerous social media postings dedicated to the latest trend (borderline phenomenon) seizing not only a nation, but the whole world, or have been spared the incident of bumping into someone actively engaging in a little Pokémon hunting on the street, it is clear that there is nothing more all the rage this summer. Normally mobile phone apps and games are associated as taking the human population to whole new levels of anti-socialness; however Pokéman Go seems to be having a miracle effect which is counteracting this magnetic force. Yes, we are still besotted with man’s new best friend, the mobile phone, but now it is encouraging us to voluntarily enter into the light and freshness of the great outdoors and explore. Such is the power of the Pokémon Go because with the augmented virtual reality app projecting images of everyone’s favourite childhood anime onto city landmarks so it looks like they are really there on your mobile screen, people are going out in their droves to partake in a nostalgic game of Pokémon hunting because the only way to catch them all, is to actively explore the surrounding environment – sitting on the couch will get you nowhere. Of course you also have the assistance of GPS technology on your smart phone to help lead the way also.  Pokémon Go is a truly global craze with it having captivated the eyes of citizens spanning 35 countries and becoming more addictive than those little known apps of Facebook and Whatsapp.

With the UK basking in the glorious freedom of the summer holidays and even enjoying a little bit of tropical summer sunshine, Pokémon Go has come at the best possible time. It is the optimum season to explore a new city and what better way to see it than with a fun interactive activity which will keep all members of the family, whether it is the young or the young at heart, engaged and excited. Already players have remarked how it has taken them to parts of the city they had never thought they would venture; likewise it is helping them to connect with other players and to forge social bonds. Fortunately, with apartments in four major UK cities, wherever you stay with us you are right in the heart of some of the UK’s best Pokémon hunting grounds. Therefore, discover all about the Pokémon Go hype in some of our favourite UK vacation spots and be inspired to come visit us and explore our new cities from a new perspective.

Aberdeen

A legion of unique Pokémon characters have finally invaded the Silver City with even some rare ones also to be found. Of course, it is irrefutable that Pokémon would be hiding in the most dynamic and buzzing part of the city – the city centre. Therefore, when you are hitting up Union Street, make sure to take an extra few moments outside the prime shopping area of St. Nicholas Centre as three “Pokestops” are rumoured to be found there. Likewise, if you wanting to view some of the amazing talent on stage at the Music Hall or His Majesty’s Theatre, you might be able to see more than real famous faces, but also some virtual Pokémon ones too. The beauty of Pokémon Go is also that you do not necessary know where you will find the Pokémon, this is why you can venture all across the city in the hopes of finding one and engaging in a little bit of sightseeing and social interaction along the way. Therefore, the app has had people exploring the beautiful length of Aberdeen’s stunning sandy beach; various churches and it has even seen them take day trips to Stonehaven because those little Pokémon sure get everywhere! With Pokémon being rumoured to be located at all kinds of Aberdeen attraction hot spots from the beach to the fishing community of Fittie to tranquil public areas like Seaton Park, it is clear that Pokémon Go could be the perfect activity that will allow you to become acquainted with the sparkling silver exterior of the renowned Granite City.

Birmingham

Known as Britain’s “Second City”, it is of little surprise that the exciting metropolis of Birmingham is absolutely teeming with Pokémon waiting to be discovered. Pokémon mania has even swept the citizens of Birmingham so much that an organised mass Pokémon Go walk was devised that was held on Saturday 23rd July, reflecting the comradery that the virtual app is creating – up to 1,000 walkers were expected. Rumoured Pokémon hotspots include the Jewellery Quarter, St. Paul’s Square and of course along the sides of Birmingham’s vast canal system. They can even be hunted down within the walls of iconic Birmingham attractions including the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, so it is not just art that can be found and admired! Likewise, if you are hitting up the bargains and the temptation of Grand Central shopping centre, you may find more than just good deals. Therefore, from sightseeing to shopping and even to eating, Pokémon Go may be the perfect addictive activity that will allow you to fully explore one of Britain’s most famous metropolises.

Glasgow

pokemon glasgow

http://www.glasgowlive.co.uk/news/glasgow-news/ultimate-guide-pokemon-go-glasgow-11614786

Priding itself for the warmth and friendliness of its citizens, it is no wonder that Pokémon would feel welcome along the dynamic and effervescent streets of Glasgow. With its renowned reputation for its nature scene and its abundance of parks, it is no surprise that many Pokémon have been rumoured to be hiding among the shrubbery such as at Glasgow Green. However, while hiding in parks or even by the Clydeside, they are also of course hitting up popular city central locations from the likes of the Duke of Wellington statue (the one famous for having an ever-present traffic cone residing on its head), George Square, Kelvingrove Museum and even within the haunting beauty of the Victorian cemetery; the Necropolis. Likewise, other rumoured hotspots include the Finnieston Crane as well as the Armadillo and the Hydro which means you may get a dual batch of entertainment if you are stopping by the check out the latest musical talent on stage.

Edinburgh

pokemon go aberdeen

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1omOow1m09QBs1-UVcJ89wSnRI-g&hl=en_US

Of course there is no city in Scotland that Pokémon could desire to infiltrate more than the cobbled historic streets of Scotland’s stunning and animated capital. With some of the most iconic attractions and streets in the nation, it is irrefutable that a couple of Pokémon would want to pop up at these stops. Therefore, it may be of no surprise that if you want to engage in a little bit of Pokémon hunting, than prime locations such as the Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street Gardens, Leith Docks, Edinburgh Zoo and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art certainly pave the way for victory. These are attractions that you would want to visit anyway but doing it under the guise of Pokémon hunting, also gives it that added extra bit of fun. Likewise, it may also bring you to attractions you had never considered previously such as Lochend Park or St. Margaret’s Well which is a well that has been in existence since 1362 and therefore possesses its own unique level of historical value. The hype of Pokémon Go mania in Edinburgh has even reached such a level that local taxi drivers are offering Pokémon Go tours, so if you are feeling a little tired and want a crafty (albeit pricy!) way of viewing the city, this could be the alternative as the route set out claims to stop at 50 “Pokestops” in 20 minutes.

So there you have it, if are really getting swept up in the phenomenon that has captured the nation and their phones, how about a Pokémon Go tour with The Spires? With apartments right in the city centre of these 4 active Pokémon spots, you could not be any closer to all the excitement and hype. While we cannot guarantee that the little monsters will be found under the beds in our apartments, you are bound to find some lurking not too far away whether they are in attractions, parks, restaurants or even transport spots. Therefore, let us know how many you catch and share with us any top tips – maybe we will try and engage in some Pokémon hunting of our own!

“Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside…”

 

 

Nothing epitomises the summer season quite like the visual imagery of soft golden shores; the calming crush of the waves and a cooling ice-cream in one hand. However, you do not have to go somewhere very tropical and exotic to experience this as while the weather can sometimes taint the imagery, Scotland is still home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Aberdeen’s own beach is no exception to this and provides the perfect oasis of tranquility away from the bustling city streets. Whether you want to enjoy a walk close to nature or to engage in some childlike fun, Aberdeen’s beach provides it all and in our latest blog we document all the wonders and entertainment that the beach offers; making for the perfect family weekend when you stay in our serviced apartments:

Codonas Family Amusement Park – a staple part of Aberdonian childhood, there is no resident who has not experienced the thrills and excitement of this family owned amusement park. Hosting everything including an exhilarating rollercoaster; the splash-zone fun of the log flume; the crazy dizziness of the Waltzers and a good ole pirate ship, the amusement park offers every popular ride synonymous with a day at the fair.  Dominating over it all is the Grampian Eye, a massive wheel offering panoramic views of the city – it is definitely the best seat in the house!

Sunset Boulevard – all the excitement is not just found outside however. Therefore, if you are unfortunately at Aberdeen on an off day, there is still plenty of fun to be had at Sunset Boulevard complete with its offering of an inside play park; old-school amusement arcade games and everyone’s favourite rambunctious dodgems to get the heart-rate going. Therefore, make sure you are stocked up on some pennies so as to have the chance to win candy or cuddly toys galore – the perfect mementos of a family trip by the sea. Likewise, if you are looking to engage in a little bit of friendly competition, the bowling alley complete with numerous lanes is the perfect place to see who the leader in the bowling world is.

Adventure Golf – just when you think the beach is not offering enough excitement and thrills, you can further the competitive spirit with a round or two of Adventure Golf. Whether you want to pretend you are a pirate on an exotic island or if you want to traverse through some tropical jungle scenery, there are two different themes differentiating the beach’s adventure golf offering. With both indoor and outdoor courses, it is the perfect activity whatever the weather and perfect for demonstrating who has the potential to be the next Rory Mcllroy.

Water Activities – while so much fun can be found on the soft golden shores collecting pebbles or building sandcastles, there is nothing quite as refreshing as a dip in the North Sea – particularly for the braver among us. In particular, Granite Reef Surf School offers a surf school every weekend so whether you are a novice or consider yourself to be up there with the surfing champs, it caters to all abilities. Also, fear not, you are provided with a wetsuit for those apprehensive about the ‘refreshing’ chill of the North Sea.

Leisure Centre and Ice Rink – not feeling confident enough to brave the infamous chill of the North Sea? Fear not, there is still plenty of opportunity to have fun in the water at the Queen’s Link Leisure Centre offering all kinds of watery thrills includes waves, rapids and four adrenaline-pumping flumes. While still warmer than the North Sea, there is a sauna for additional warmth and relaxation as well as gym equipment for those wanting to give their heart a workout.

However, if you prefer your water frozen, then the ice rink also offers the perfect opportunity for some family fun – as well as a few tumbles!

Dolphins – It is nearly impossible to find someone who cannot be charmed by the pure innocence and beauty of dolphins at play in their natural habitat and with DolphinWatch (31st March to 14th August 2016), you can do just that. With particularly stellar views from the Torry Battery, you can discover stunning panoramic views of the harbour while having RSPB staff to help provide you with information, telescopes and binoculars on Thursdays through Sundays. For some of the best views in Europe of our favourite friends with fins, make sure to check out DolphinWatch when you stay with us – particularly as there are special event weekends.

Balmedie Beach – Of course while there are activities in abundance to engage in, nothing quite beats a tranquil walk along the soft sandy shores to admire the views and to hear the powerful crash of the waves. With cafes and stores lining the promenade selling all kinds of tempting goodies including ice cream or fish and chips to munch on and to complete the seaside sensory experience, it really is the perfect place to stop and bask in the glory of coastal nature. If you want to explore a little further, the award-winning Balmedie Country Park provides the perfect natural beach experience with sand dunes aplenty.

Footdee – while Aberdeen is unmistakably ablaze with city life, you can experience a slightly different perspective of the city by visiting the old fishing village of Footdee, known fondly by the locals as “fittie”. Located at the end of the harbour, Footdee is comprised of two areas of picturesque and idyllic fishing cottages built in two squares. Awash with charm, vibrant colours and well-maintained gardens, Footdee is definitely worth a visit to see where the fishermen used to live and to hide temporarily away from the animation of city life in scenic surroundings.

Sold on a nostalgic family trip to the seaside during the summer months? Our apartments are located only 20 minutes away from the city centre with strong transport links meaning it could not be any easier to spend your weekend hearing the crash of the waves and breathing in the fresh salty air. Book online at www.thespires.co.uk or phone 0845 270 0090 to book your trip today.

 

Images: http://travelbrochures.org/top-8-places-to-visit-in-aberdeen/

Balmedie Beach (3)

http://www.quirkyguide.com/place/footdee-scotland

http://www.codonas.com

 

 

Castle Crazy

Scotland’s Silver City is known for many things: its beautiful parks that have culminated in it winning numerous “Britain in Bloom” accolades; the tranquility and the fun that its sandy shores provide and a cosmopolitan collection of the biggest shopping and dining brands. However, whether you come to see the nature, the beach, the entertainment of a bustling city or even the glittering granite skyline, there is something else that you can see in particular abundance – castles. We are not just talking about a handful of castles, but over 300 and that is because Aberdeen is fortunate enough to be located on the outskirts of Scotland’s Castle Country. As the title alludes to, if you want to find castles, then you are certainly in the right place as Castle Country has more castles per acre than anywhere else in the UK. Consequently, whatever shape, size or colour you like your castles in – you are certainly going to find one that fits the bill!

Therefore, if you are staying with us in our Aberdeen apartments and are looking for a fun day trip full of majesty and rich heritage, make sure to check out Scotland’s dedicated “Castle Trail”. Consisting of 17 castles ranging from dramatic ruins to fairy-tale enchantment, there are so many wonders to explore and many are only an hour or so drive away from Aberdeen. For details of all the 17, make sure to check out http://www.visitaberdeen.com/assets/castletrail.pdf to get your Castle itinerary sorted. However, to give you a taster of all the fun that lies ahead, read on below to find out some of our personal favourites.

  1. Balmoral Castle

When talking about castles in Aberdeenshire, there is certainly one that can never be missed out – Balmoral Castle. Castles tend to have associations with royalty and that is certainly the case with Balmoral Castle because if it being located in Royal Deeside was not a big enough indicator, it is the much beloved holiday home of the royal family and this goes all the way back to Queen Victoria’s time who was actually the monarch to purchase the castle as she loved it so much after visiting it on a romantic break. However, the castle you are seeing today is not actually the original because Queen Victoria had it knocked down and then rebuilt – when you are a Queen, you are able to wield that level of power!

Apart from the royal connection, it is a stunning castle to view in its own right with the majestic grounds and the illustrious ballroom being particular highlights to look out for alongside the special exhibits. Due to the grounds and architecture being particularly well maintained and preserved – it is clear that it will stand the test of time and will be enjoyed for generations to come.

  1. Crathes Castle

Complete with the magic of turrets, towers, wielding staircases and gorgeous grounds, this 16th century tower house has all the enchanting features you associate with majestic castles. Complete with the finest and the most elegant decoration on the inside, particularly keep an eye out (or up!) for the lavishly painted ceilings,  there is also so much more on the outside to explore with over 200 acres of quintessential British woodland and countryside to roam. Between the aesthetic beauty and the sweet-smelling aroma of the luscious rose gardens, this is a castle to hit all the senses. Likewise, it is perfect for all the family with a children adventure’s playpark and most importantly of all, the ultimate UK tree-top adventure: Go Ape!.

  1. Dunnottar Castle

Some of us like our castles in a form that is akin to the splendour of those found in Disney movies, however some of us like them a little bit more dramatic – if so, Dunnottar Castle is the one for you. Exhibiting magnificence in a slightly different form, there is nothing quite like the indomitable, breath-taking cliff-side location of Dunnottar Castle which is rumoured to be one of Scotland’s most impressive ruined castles. Surrounded by the ominous North Sea, this ancient and wonderfully gloomy castle conveys the rich stores of its past. With famous historical figures such as William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots having visited the castle, this is certainly a castle for all the history buffs out there particularly as it was the infamous sight where a small garrison held out against Cromwell’s army for eight months and subsequently saved the Crown Jewels. Likewise, even movie fanatics will be particularly taken by this castle because as it tells the stories that are akin to those only found in the movies, it is no surprise that it has actually been featured as the landscape to many a feature film due to its cinematographic wonder. Therefore if you are wondering why the castle may seem so familiar, that is potentially because you have seen it showcased in movies including Hamlet featuring Mel Gibson as well as Victor Frankenstein (it was even partly inspiration for Disney’s Brave!).

  1. Cragievar Castle

However, for those fonder of the traditional castle type which emanates an ethereal and enchanting atmosphere, look no further than Cragievar Castle. A charming seven-storey castle, what particularly makes this castle stand out is its luminous and iconic pink coloured exterior – certainly one for those little girls who dream of being a princess. If you feel a little bit of magic in the air then it would not be surprising because Walt Disney was so taken by the castle, it is supposedly what inspired his pioneering imaginative spirit to conjure the renowned castle motif associated with the Disney brand. Still home to family portraits and ornate ceilings, the castle retains many of the treasures collected by the Forbes family across their 350 year residence there and it is that family atmosphere that really gives the castle that unique and welcoming spirit.

  1. Castle Fraser

Located only a convenient 16 miles from Aberdeen, if you are looking for splendour and grandness there is no castle that quite fills the brief like Castle Fraser which is one of Scotland’s most impressive baronial tower houses. Dating back to the 15th century, Castle Fraser is really orientated around the stories of its lairds and thus is rooted in Scottish history dating from the medieval and Victorian times. Particular highlights include the atmospheric simplicity of the Great Hall as well as the stunning panoramic views that are afforded from the round tower.

Fancying paying a visit to one, two or more of these castles? Of course! Well about challenging yourself and seeing how many you can visit in one day, or alternatively, how about a holiday dedicated to exploring the riches, treasures and captivating stories of these properties? With each of these castles offering something different, you can never explore too many – just make sure to check the opening times of the castles because they are subject to seasonal operating hours.

Images: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balmoral_Castle

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crathes_Castle

http://www.castlexplorer.co.uk/scotland/fraser/fraser.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunnottar_Castle

http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/alford/craigievar/

Welcome To Royal Deeside

Balmoral (36)

When people come to visit the UK, it is often due to the desire of exploring the rich historic tapestry that is often associated with the country. Indeed people want to explore the scenic landscape and its historical landmarks that tell the enlightening stories of times long gone. Moreover, it is not just the stories of the past they crave, but also those that interweave tales that involve the monarchy and royalty because after all, who does not wonder what it would be like to to be a majestic ruler? Therefore, it is no surprise that iconic Great British landmarks are comprised of renowned attractions such as Edinburgh Castle, The Royal Mile and Buckingham Palace which are steeped in history with a royal glow. However, when people think of cities like Aberdeen, more often than not they have associations of a corporate destination, as opposed to a place where they could visit for leisure purposes. While Aberdeen is prime business territory, it is clear that it offers much more than that and while The Spires is located only minutes away from the bustling city centre complete with shops and restaurants, it is also important to consider what lies in the other direction – Royal Deeside.

So you may be asking, what makes Deeside so royal? Well, it is the royalty, Queen Victoria in particular, that has made the area so renowned due to it being a popular holiday destination with them both in the long ago Victorian times and even today with Queen Elizabeth. The phrase, “royal seal of approval” certainly applies in this context! A particular royal landmark that particularly cannot go without being missed is the Balmoral Castle seeing as Prince Albert built Balmoral Castle particularly as a retreat for himself and Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria was such a fan of the area, she bought land there and even famously proclaimed “Every year my heart becomes more fixed on this dear paradise“. As a regular holiday destination for the royal family, Royal Deeside is unmistakeably a prime visiting spot for any Royal fanatic. A particular sign of interest to look out for on a trail across the towns and villages that comprise Royal Deeside is the Royal Warrants which symbolises the businesses that are a supplier to the Queen’s household – Ballater in particular is a favourite with businesses from butchers and garages being fortunate enough to have the Warrant bestowed upon them.

A particular highlight of Royal Deeside includes the “Victorian Heritage Trail” which has been a tourist favourite for over 150 years and is where you can even walk in the footsteps of the royalty. Along this trail you will encounter all kinds of quaint, charming and scenic villages and towns such as Banchory, Ballater and Braemar which are in stark contrast to be the fast-paced city life of Aberdeen. Braemar in particular is renowned for its Highland Gathering which is known to be one of Scotland’s best and is a major tourist draw – potentially as it remains a royal favourite.

The other element that makes Royal Deeside so iconic is its absolutely stunning landscape which provides the perfect backdrop for all kinds of activity in nature from walking to cycling to skiing to just pure wildlife watching – it is a tranquil haven away from the bustling streets of the city. While Aberdeen is marked for its sparkling granite skyline, Royal Deeside is renowned for the diversity of its nature and the enchanting atmosphere – from mysterious forests to the gentle tinkle of crystal clear rivers to dramatic mountain faces. Every corner is undeniably a photo opportunity and a chance to escape reality!

From castles including Balmoral, Crathes and Braemar to distilleries to heritage centres, there is so much to found and enjoyed in Royal Deeside whether you are travelling by yourself or with the family. Therefore, when you come to stay with us in Aberdeen, do not feel restricted by the city boundaries – there is so much more to be found on a day trip out of the city; particularly with The Spires sitting at the entrance to Royal Deeside.

To learn more: http://www.visitaberdeen.com/royal-deeside/

                                http://visitroyaldeeside.com/

Image: http://www.lifeofpottering.co.uk/2015/05/the-cairngorms-balmoral-castle.html

2016: Top 16 Things To Do

It might be a few weeks late but welcome to the brand new world that is 2016! In honour of celebrating this time of new beginnings and new opportunities, we thought we would look at some of the must-do activities and festivities in our respective locations so that we can get your 2016 travel bucket-list rolling.

Aberdeen

SetRatioSize467467-LIGHT-FEST-IMAGE-E
SPECTRA 2015 

http://www.visitaberdeen.com/whats-on/calendar/spectra-aberdeens-festival-of-light/?date=2015-02-19

  1. Footdee – while irrefutably the beach is a prominent attraction in Aberdeen, make sure to explore the idyllic village located by the sea known as Footdee, or more affectionately by the locals, as ‘Fittie’. A well-preserved fishing village, Footdee is truly charming and unique and takes you to times gone by.
  2. Park & Gardens – looking for an oasis of calm among the hustle and bustle of city life? Make sure to discover the parks that have helped Aberdeen win the accolade of “Britain in Bloom” a record breaking number of times. From the tropical winter gardens in Duthie Park that houses the UK’s largest collection of cacti to the fairy tale wonder of Johnstone Gardens complete with bridges and waterfalls, there is plenty of natural beauty to be admired among Aberdeen’s silver exterior.
  3. Dolphin Watch – a little known fact but apparently Aberdeen is one of the prime locations in Europe in which to view dolphins at play in the sea. Therefore, flock to the harbour during the summer months to witness our beautiful friends with fins. There is even a Dolphin Adventure Cruise!
  4. SPECTRA – in collaboration with Scotland’s focus Year of Architecture, Innovation and Design; SPECTRA is Aberdeen’s very own stunning Festival of Light which takes places in Union Terrace Gardens. With international artists and Scottish collaborators engaging in displays and exhibitions that focus on light, sound and interaction; it is perfect for anyone of any age and will truly bring the city to life!

Birmingham

waffles
SPECTRA 2015

http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/lifestyle/food-drink/birmingham-street-food-guide-whos-7607752

  1. Jewellery Quarter – a fan of all things that sparkle and glitter? Well, make sure not to miss the world-renowned Jewellery Quarter which is home to one of the largest concentrations of firms involved in the jewellery trade and has over 200 listed buildings; testament to its rich heritage. Full of culture and history, the Jewellery Quarter is a vivacious trendy urban destination that cannot be missed.
  2. Grand Central – it is undeniable how Birmingham is a prime retail destination and the opening of Grand Central last year only substantiated that reputation. With over 60 premium retailers including the UK’s flagship John Lewis, you could spend one weekend in this shopping centre alone!
  3. Street Food – Birmingham is becoming one of the emerging cities in the UK for serving high quality street food; who needs a formal Michelin experience (although Birmingham offers a tasty abundance of these too!) when you can have convenience and food on the go. There is a weekly street food event on Fridays where you can sample all kinds of tempting treats from burgers to waffles. Make sure your stomach does not miss out!
  4. Music Festivals – As well as an emerging food destination, Birmingham is starting to become a city known on the map for its music festivals. With highlights including the Moseley Folk Festival; the Mostly Jazz, Funk and Soul Festival and MADE Birmingham, there is plenty of musical festivities to keep audiences of all kinds singing and dancing away.

Glasgow

celtic-connections
SPECTRA 2015

https://film.list.co.uk/article/15259-gaelic-film-festival-announced-as-part-of-celtic-connections/

  1. Celtic Connections – One of the prime highlights of Glasgow’s winter calendar, Celtic Connections sees over 2,100 musicians descending on the city to engage in one of the most renowned folk, roots and world music festivals. It is a thrilling 18 days full of ceilidhs, art exhibitions and concerts that celebrate Celtic music and its cross-cultural connections – definitely one not to be missed.
  2. Glasgow International – A biennial festival celebrating contemporary art, Glasgow International is globally renowned and cements Glasgow’s reputation as a leading participator in the visual arts. Occurring in various locations across the city, Glasgow International celebrates the best of both local and international contemporary art and is perfect for audiences of all ages and kinds.
  3. Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design – This year sees Scotland celebrate the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design; and where better to celebrate this focus year than in Glasgow – a city renowned for its gorgeous and iconic architecture; primarily courtesy of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. As a result of this focus year, there will be a year-long Festival of Architecture occurring in Glasgow meaning that all throughout the year there will be engaging events to participate in and to really get to know Glasgow.
  4. Glasgow Film Festival – One of the UK’s largest and most established film festivals, Glasgow Film Festival is definitely one not to be missed! With renowned Glasgow venues such as Kelvingrove Art Gallery holding specially themed screenings, it is a film experience like no other.

Edinburgh

animal-cafes_467222
Maison de Moggy 

http://uk.askmen.com/top_10/travel/animal-cafes_3.html

  1. Edinburgh Heritage Food Trail – In collaboration with Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site, the Food Trail devised in 2015 is a new (and tasty!) way of getting to know Edinburgh and its rich history. Covering cooking schools, farmer markets and even the Palace of Holyroodhouse, it is a journey across Edinburgh and back in time like no other.
  2. Edinburgh Festivals – One of the world’s leading festival cities, it is irrefutable that a prime reason to visit in 2016 is to participate in one of the plethora of festivals on offer. From an International Film Festival to festivals celebrating everything from Jazz and Blues to Books to Science, not even counting the summer highlight of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, there is definitely a festival for everyone!
  3. The Real Mary King’s Close – Sometimes all the excitement is not to be found above ground, but below. Take a tour of the hidden streets lurking below the bustling city that have been in existence since the 17th century by tour guides costumed as people from the past; there is no shortage of horror stories to regale.
  4. Cat Café – Scotland’s inaugural cat café, this is the perfect café to visit if you are a fan of furry moggies! Aptly titled, Maison de Moggy, you can eat cakes and have a warm cuppa while in the warm presence of some furry, cuddly friends.

The Water of Life

whisky_2525228b

The amusing thing about life is that with each and every day, there is something being celebrated. For example, there is a designated national awareness food day for almost every food item imaginable (particularly in the USA). Recent illustrations of this is that on May 17th, we will be celebrating National Walnut Day (not one for those with peanut allergies!) and a few days ago unbeknown to me, on May 11th, the world was celebrating the ultimate foodie’s dream day: National Eat What you Want Day. Why am I lamenting on thoughts of days and food? Well, apart from it being the Year of Food & Drink as part of VisitScotland’s latest annual campaign, it is also Whisky Month and tomorrow (May 16th) is actually World Whisky Day. Not just National Whisky Day, but World Whisky Day meaning that a plethora of crystal tumblers around the world will be raised in salute to Scotland’s national drink. Therefore, being located in Scotland it would be almost criminal for us not to mark this special occasion, particularly with our headquarters being in Aberdeen, which is only an hour away from many a small and unique distillery. Therefore, in a land known for its tartan and haggis, we are taking a moment to focus on and appreciate the national drink of Scotland.

First things first, it is undeniable that we have to take a look back to when Scotland’s favourite export rose to prominence. With a history that dates back to the 15th century, the first known event involving whisky was all the way back in 1494 when Friar John Cor of Lindores Abbey in Fife gained the king’s permission to create acqua vitae. Unfamiliar with acque vitae? Well, once translated from Latin, it means “water of life” and this is where whisky’s name stems from; the Gaelic translation. It may sound ironic; however water from Scotland’s burns and streams is indeed a critical component of the whisky making process.

Back in the day, whisky was often associated with rebellion with much being done by Scottish distilleries to avoid the menacing English taxman. The epitome of this was that in the 18th century, there were only eight legal distilleries versus four hundred ILLEGAL ones. However, nowadays, whisky is held in much higher esteem because when we say whisky is one of Scotland’s biggest exports, it is not in jest because whisky actually accounts for more than 85 per cent of Scottish food and drinks exports and is worth a massive £4.3 billion.

It goes without saying that a visit to Aberdeenshire (and Scotland for that matter), is not complete without a visit to a distillery. Both highly educational and enlightening, the experience will differ per distillery from whether you get to witness the blending process or whether you can engage in a cheeky tasting, but it is always a certainty that you will be able to pick up your own bottle of the “water of life” to ensure that you have an authentic piece of Scotland with you. Scotland is home to the only whisky trail in the world, in Speyside, where you will be able to find more than half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries each possessing their own unique recipes and history. From Glenfiddich to Glenlivet to Cardhu, these are the famous whiskies we all know, and can be found on this illustrious trail.

However, you do not have to look as far as Speyside to find a fully-functioning distillery. If you are staying with us in Aberdeen and are in search of something to do, even with the family, there are eight distilleries only an hour from Aberdeen which may be smaller in scale, but still have their own exciting story to tell and unique whisky recipe to taste. Fettercairn, Knockdhu and Glen Garioch are some of the names featured and of the eight overall distilleries; at least half of them do have visitor centres making for a perfect day-trip from Aberdeen.

glen-garioch-distillery-tour

Similarly, a whisky day-trip is also a possibility with a stay at The Spires in Glasgow due to its close proximity to two distilleries: Auchentoshan Distillery and Glengoyne Distillery. A visit to either or both is a good idea because Auchentoshan is only 20 minutes from Glasgow’s city centre and offers whisky masterclasses and at Glengoyne, you can even craft your own personal blended whisky! Even if you are just looking for a place to relax after a long day of business meetings or exploring the city, Glasgow is renowned for its plentiful supply of whisky bars such as the Bon Accord Ale House which offers a fairly large selection due to it being home to over 300 whiskies. Consequently, it is of no surprise that it is held in very high esteem in the nation.

glengoyne5

If you are thinking of staying with us in Birmingham, you will not miss out on any of the fun there either because Birmingham is certainly not immune from the whisky scene either with it having now hosted an annual Whisky Festival for the past three years. This is no small festival we are talking about either, as while the first festival was attended by an acceptable 200 fanatics, this figure doubled in 2014 to 400 and in 2015, 600 tickets were released as the figure was expected to jump yet again. As a result, it is no surprise that after London, Birmingham’s Whisky Festival is the largest in England. It is clear there is a passion for whisky amongst Birmingham’s residents due to the launching of whisky collections by venues like The Plough, as well as the opening of Hard to Find Whisky; a whisky store that specialises in the selling of rare bottles of whisky. Emphasis is on the word “rare” as some bottles can even be sold for significant sums of money; does anyone have £35,000 to spare?

With it being National Whisky Month, there is a whole host of events going on across Scotland and in particular, there is a wide range of whisky madness occurring all around the globe tomorrow due to it being World Whisky Day. Over 11, 000 people are expected to attend nearly 150 events registered around the globe and if you happen to be staying with us in any of our locations, it is clear that you will be not far from any of the festivities.

Always remember to drink responsibly and with caution 

Sources: http://visitbirmingham.com/what-to-do/birmingyum/events/whisky-birmingham-2015/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinkadvice/11099642/What-does-whisky-mean-to-Scotland.html

http://www.visitaberdeen.com/attractions-and-activities/whisky-distilleries-in-aberdeenshire

https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/whisky-distilleries-breweries

http://www.visitscotland.com/about/food-drink/whisky/

Images: VisitScotland, http://www.trossachs.co.uk, Telegraph